The failure by the Workers' Party (WP) to give answers and respond adequately to questions on the financial well-being of its town council calls into question its leaders' reputation and integrity, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee.
It also demonstrates a lack of transparency and a failure to be accountable, Mr Lee added in a statement yesterday, the third time in four weeks that he has taken the WP to task on the issue.
He also pointed out that instead of answering important questions on their town council, WP leaders resorted to blaming others, including the Ministry of National Development (MND), Auditor-General's Office (AGO), People's Action Party (PAP) and the media, for their predicament.
"This series of excuses calls into question not only AHPETC's local competence, but also the WP leaders' integrity and national reputation," he said.
AHPETC is short for Aljunied- Hougang-Punggol East Town Council, run by the WP.
Mr Lee's latest response comes a day after WP chairman Sylvia Lim issued a statement giving reasons for AHPETC's delay in submitting its service and conservancy charge (S&CC) arrears reports.
Ms Lim said the town council explained to MND its problems in producing the arrears reports in the required format. She also said the ministry rejected its offer to submit the data "as it was".
Responding, Mr Lee said the template of the monthly arrears report - a table showing how many households owe S&CC and for how long - is not new. It has been used by all town councils, including the former Hougang Town Council since 2008, when it was managed by the WP and under the same general manager who now oversees AHPETC, he noted.
It was also used by AHPETC till April last year, when it stopped after a "shocking arrears rate appeared". The non-submission of information to the MND aside, AHPETC did not send audited accounts to Parliament on time for three years in a row - since the WP took over in 2011.
"What is important is AHPETC's lack of transparency and Ms Lim's and her fellow MPs' failure to be accountable. They have yet to explain why their arrears are so high or disclose what their latest arrears rate is."
Ms Lim acknowledged that the high arrears rate - 30 per cent among residents and 50 per cent among commercial tenants - was a matter of concern, he said. And in previous responses, she said she would look into the problem.
"But her actions have not matched her words. When pressed for answers, she repeatedly says she will answer in 'due course'," he said. Ms Lim must have the information as AHPETC sends lawyers' letters to those in arrears.